Turning trash to cash

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recycling biz INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS Nokwanda Sotyantya's 'green' business is creating jobs for the locals, and cleaning up, too. Picture: Henk Kruger

Cape Town - Three years ago Nokwanda Sotyantya of Imizamo Yethu in Hout Bay first heard she could make money from rubbish, but she didn’t believe it.

But with few options available to provide for herself and her four children, she took the plunge and today is the proud owner of a recycling co-operative that provides jobs for eight people.

Sotyantya’s move towards a “green” business has turned her life around.

“At first all I saw was just trash that had to be thrown away. I had no idea where to start or how I was going to turn that into a business,” said the 49-year-old.

With the help of Thrive, a social enterprise that helps green business start-ups, and her husband’s bakkie, Sotyantya started out with four relatives.

They began by collecting cardboard, plastic, paper, glass and metal from the informal settlement, to bundle and sell to packaging manufacturers that recycle the materials to create new products.

“I started out with no capital and I struggled in the beginning. It gives me a great feeling that I am now able to create bread for other people to feed their families,” she said.

Sotyantya’s co-op operates from the Hout Bay municipal waste drop-off site, not far from her home.

The co-op is also part of the city’s 110 percent Green flagship project, an initiative launched last year by Western Cape Premier Helen Zille to encourage a green economy.

“People in the area are not interested in recycling because they don’t know much about it,” said Sotyantya.

“So we regularly go around the local shebeens and schools to educate them about what we do and how they can separate their trash.”

When the Cape Argus visited Sotyantya’s co-op, the team was sorting through piles of rubbish, which included old fridges and furniture, which they sell for as little as R5.

They make an average of R5 000 a month, which they divide among themselves as their take-home salary. And each month they go through about 38 tons of rubbish.

“The more people become aware of the benefits of recycling, the more waste will be dropped off and the cleaner the area will be,” said Sotyantya. “If we were not here the informal settlement would be a dirty mess.” - Cape Argus

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